During my decade and a half with Samaritan’s Purse, firstly as an employee and now as a consultant, it has been my great privilege and joy to work alongside thousands of local churches around the world. A few are big, urban and influential, but the vast majority are tiny, situated way off the beaten track, and forgotten. But whether they are located in Africa, Eastern Europe or in Central or South East Asia, I have discovered that many of them have some great things in common. They want to engage meaningfully with their society, unite across confessions, lead many people to Christ, and see holistic transformation in the lives of the poorest and most marginalised families in their communities.
Since 2012 I have managed a programme called Raising Families. It is what is often called a ‘Church and Community Mobilisation’ (CCM) programme, and it does exactly that. It mobilises churches and communities. It is a great example of a church-based programme that is committed both to social action and to seeing dozens of people coming to Christ every week. Not one or the other, but both.
In managing the Raising Families programme, I have been able to work alongside several thousand churches around the world, envisioning, encouraging and mobilising them to make a genuinely transforming impact upon their neighbourhoods. Whilst having a global model, Raising Families (or RaFa, as it is affectionately known, at least in English speaking countries) is tailored to be appropriate to each diverse social, economic and regulatory culture and context. Pastors have been envisioned, and churches have been mobilised. The programme has functioned very successfully through experienced partners in Central Asia and in Africa since 2006.
The model that underpins the programme has always been designed to be self-sustaining and, to this day, even years after the formal training in some locations was completed, hundreds of churches remain committed to this holistic, faith-filled vision of integral mission. Also, as I write, other mission agencies and NGOs are looking to adopt the model, and develop it in other countries around the world.
Since the programme scaled up in 2012, Raising Families has actively served 3,002 local churches from many denominations, strengthening those churches in the proclamation and the demonstration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Denominations and churches that had previously competed with one another have learned how to work together in harmony for the sake of the Kingdom of God. And those 3,002 churches have each been tasked with supporting and mentoring twenty of the most vulnerable families in their neighbourhood, over a period of three years.
In earlier years, I had the great privilege of planting and pastoring some extraordinarily dynamic churches in the UK, and have since served churches and communities in many dozens of countries around the world. However, for me to manage the Raising Families programme has been the most fulfilling, significant and effective role that I have had in almost fifty years of Christian service.
The studies in this book are an attempt to outline some of the core values and practices that have underpinned the Raising Families programme. Each chapter typically includes an introductory section, a biblical rationale, the Raising Families context, and some quotes and testimonies from RaFa practitioners. Finally, they offer some questions suitable for individual contemplation or for small group discussion.
The book is written with a UK Christian readership in mind, and it is anticipated that through these studies, UK church leaders and activists who have an interest in exploring some of the lessons being learned by churches in other parts of the world will be stimulated in their own determination to engage in new, meaningful and Christ-like ways with their own UK communities.
With some good preparation done by group leaders, and as long as each chapter is read by group members before the group meets, the twelve chapters of this book quite naturally create a three month curriculum for small groups that meet weekly. Alternatively, each chapter can be used individually and without reference to the others.
And should you and your church wish to explore and contextualise these values and practices further, I am available for the leading or facilitating of events such as a church weekend or a training series. Contact me through my website, CuttingAcross.com.